1st to 27th June – Uganda   Leave a comment

I started this blog with the intention of keeping interested parties up to date with my post-retirement activities. However I hadn’t envisioned that there would be times when I would be so busy that there wouldn’t be time to write a blog or edit the photos required. This is exactly what has happened recently. The 1st to 27th of June was spent on a highly successful Birdquest trip to Uganda. We saw a wide range of birds and mammals and I took over 2,700 photos, so editing even a selection for the blog has been a challenge. On top of that Margaret and I will be away in the near future, visiting her sister, so some preparation for that trip has been necessary as well.
Anyway here is a summary of the Uganda trip with just a few photos to illustrate it. For some reason I can’t add captions to the photos in the usual manner, so I apologise for the unusual formatting.
The rains had come early and had been prolonged, so everything was green and the grass very long, the weavers, bishops and wydahs sported their breeding finery but on the downside, because many forest species were now feeding young, they were less responsive than expected to recording.
A Northern Red Bishop in breeding finery
Also high water levels meant that some birds weren’t in the usual spot, for example we had four encounters with the legendary Shoebill but only one was on the ground but another one was seen soaring over a wholly unexpected area.
This Shoebill was seen feeding in the papyrus marsh but I couldn’t get a clear view for photos.
It later flew allowing this poor image to be captured.
Shoebills are so distinctive that they are placed in their own family. I now have just two families
for the set, one in New Caledonia and one in Borneo.
As well as the migratory birds that breed in the Palearctic, Africa hosts a large resident population of Purple Herons.
Grey-headed Kingfisher
From Lake Victoria we headed north to Murcheson Falls NP where we saw lots of Oribi, Uganda Kob, Lake Chad Buffalo along with the fantastic Pennant-winged Nightjar and other great birds.
The entire flow of the Nile is forced through this 10 metre wide gap at Murchison Falls
Sudan Oribi
Uganda Kob
There were plenty of large Nile Crocodiles on lake Albert below Murchison Falls.
African Fish Eagles are still a common site in Murcheson Falls but apparently
their numbers have declined sharply in recent years.
Ok, its a bit blurred , but it was taken through the windscreen illuminated only by the headlights.
Pennant-winged Nightjar  is probably the most spectacular nightbird in the world.
Uganda is within the wintering range of the species, it breeds further south in Malawi and Zimbabwe,
and the amazingly long pennants (elongated primaries) aren’t fully grown.
Budongo forest produced restricted range birds like Ituri Batis and Nathan’s Partridge along with several monkey species. At Kibale we had close encounters with Chimpanzees and finally found a recently fledged Green-breasted Pitta.
A large male Chimpanzee scans the tree tops for somewhere to spend the night.
Queen Elizabeth NP was superb, recently burnt areas held loads of Lapwing sp, but unfortunately not the much wanted Brown-chested, which had yet to arrive from its breeding grounds in west Africa. Dwarf Bittern was a long anticipated lifer and the Dusky Lark that leader Nik Borrow found was a first for Uganda,
It was supposed to be a controlled burn but it looked anything but controlled to us.
African Wattled Lapwing.  Also around the burnt areas were Senegal and Crowned Lapwing,
Temmink’s  Coursers and Collared Pratincoles.
Dusky Lark, a first for Uganda.
Nik got better photos and I’ll post those at a later date if I can get a copy.
The beautiful Black-headed Gonolek, a species of shrike, was common around our accommodation.
One great aspect of this trip was the numbers of intra-African migrant wetland birds. I had seen the odd African Crakes, Allen’s Gallinules, Lesser Moorhens, Lesser Jacanas and African Skimmers before, but on this trip we recorded about 10 of each with the exception of the skimmers, where we found a flock of 800! Add to that a fantastic Red-chested Flufftail and you can see this was something special.
African Crake
Lesser Jacana is a rare example of neotony, a process where a species evolves from the
juvenile stage of a related species (in this case African Jacana).
I had only seen eight African Skimmers before, this flock totaled over 800!
Do you still think Cattle Egrets are cute?
The highlight of course was the Gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We were very luck and only had a 20 minute hike until we met the group, sometimes it takes six hours of arduous climbing, depending on where the Gorillas are that day. We had a wonderful hour watching them at close quarters. Further south, but still within the Impenetrable Forest NP, we came across a pair of African Green Broadbills building a nest.
The hour spent with these gentle giants was one of the best field experiences ever.
More photos to follow in a future post
The size and colour of a leaf, this diminutive Broadbill was building its nest of lichen high in a tree.
The nest was some distance from the path and had been found by a local ranger.
Seldom seen, yet much desired,this was one of the avian highlights of the trip and it
took an all day hike down into Muwindi swamp to reach 
Further south on the Rwandan border is Mgahinga NP, we had a great day in wonderful scenery and scored with many montane specialties, including several beautiful bush-shrike species.
A wonderful day in the Virunga Mountains
Last location was Mburo NP, where along with loads of game we saw Red-headed Barbet, Black-shouldered Nightjar, White-backed Night Heron and African Finfoot.
There were plenty of Waterbuck as well as Impala and Zebra at Mburo
Mburo is also grazed by large herds of long horned Ankole Cattle,
which means that all large predators have been eliminated by the herdsmen.
Elusive, yet often showing well when it is finally located,  African Finfoot is
one of a three in this family, the others occurring in the Neotropics and SE Asia.
Half the group continued on with an optional extension, Mabira Forest gave me three more lifers, but the long drive north to Lake Bisina for Uganda’s only endemic, Fox’s Weaver drew a blank. A long way and a lot of money to dip, but then that’s birding for you.
We spent hours paddling around Lake Bisina in very uncomfortable, leaking canoes but there was no sign of Fox’s Weaver.
Black-headed Herons are as often found in dry habitats as marshes
Fox’s Weaver is seldom seen but often strung! At least boat men used to take visiting birders to see
this species,  Northern Brown-throated Weaver which is common around the lake and call it Fox’s Weaver.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the illustration of Fox’s in the field guide is wrong,
showing Fox’s with a white, rather than red eye, like the above species.
We recorded about 580 species (another 50 are possible if we had gone in the winter, but then we wouldn’t have got the Green Broadbill) and I added 75 species to my life list, which has pushed it over 7500.  Also I had 25 mammal ticks.
Fantastic trip which I highly recommend. I will post more photos in due course.

Posted July 5, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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